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Kevin Durant Comments on Pursuit of Championship, Health and More

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2016

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant is pictured in the third quarter in Game 6 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 28, 2016. (AP Photo//Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The Oklahoma City Thunder once again came up short in their quest for an NBA title, but Kevin Durant isn't deterred in his belief he can reach the mountaintop. 

In an interview Tuesday with The Vertical's Michael Lee, Durant said he remains hopeful about his championship chances:

I'm certain. I'm certain. They don't love the game like I love it. Nobody knows how much I put in the work, how much I care about my teammates, about everything. I've given my heart and soul into this since I was 8 years old. Whatever happens, I'm certain. I feel confident that that moment will happen. I'm 27 years old. Hopefully, I can play a long time in this league but nothing is guaranteed. I know one thing for sure, I'm going to put the work in.

Durant stayed healthy this year, playing in 72 regular-season games. A foot injury caused him to miss 55 games in 2014-15, and as a result, the Thunder missed the playoffs for the first time in six years. The 2013-14 NBA MVP talked about his past injury issues giving him a new perspective on this season:

I just think it's being able to play the game of basketball again, it was taken away from me. So I just wanted to enjoy every moment. Of course, [thoughts on free agency] creep in. That's natural. That's part of this whole situation. That's natural for those thoughts to creep in, because you hear a lot of stuff. But I thought I did a good job of not letting it creep in to me being a basketball player and a teammate. And I was emotionally, physically invested, 100 percent, every single day. From practice to shootarounds, to games, to playoff preparation, everything, I was totally invested in it all.

The biggest question now is where Durant's future lies. He will be an unrestricted free agent in July, and especially with the salary cap hitting $92 million in 2016-17, per USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt, he'll have a number of options this summer. ESPN.com's Zach Lowe even threw out the idea of Durant joining up with the Golden State Warriors.

Understandably, free agency was the furthest thing from Durant's mind immediately after the Thunder's Game 7 defeat in the Western Conference Finals, per ESPN.com's Royce Young: "We just lost like 30 minutes ago. I haven't even thought about it. Embracing my teammates, reflecting on the season."

Just as LeBron James spurning the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010 changed the NBA landscape, Durant leaving Oklahoma City would cause a massive domino effect across the league, especially since Russell Westbrook will be a free agent in 2017.

The Thunder were a game away from the NBA Finals this year and arguably should've closed out the Western Conference Finals in Game 6. Oklahoma City has the pieces to win a championship as long as Durant re-signs. With that said, it wouldn't be a massive shock if Durant left for fresh surroundings after years of postseason disappointments with the Thunder.

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